Let the conversation begin.
Read more from this fascinating NYT's story today:
The speech Senator Barack Obama delivered Tuesday morning has been viewed more than 1.6 million times on YouTube and is being widely e-mailed. While commentators and politicians debated its political success Wednesday, some around the country were responding to Mr. Obama’s call for a national conversation about race.
Religious groups and academic bodies, already receptive to Mr. Obama’s plea for such a dialogue, seemed especially enthusiastic. Universities were moving to incorporate the issues Mr. Obama raised into classroom discussions and course work, and churches were trying to find ways to do the same in sermons and Bible studies.
The Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of a mostly white evangelical church of about 12,000 in Central Florida, described Mr. Obama’s speech, in which the Democratic presidential candidate discussed his relationship with the former pastor of his home church in Chicago, as a kind of “Rorschach inkblot test” for the nation.
“It calls out of you what is already in you,” Dr. Hunter said, predicting that those desiring to address the topic would regard the speech as a spur, while those indifferent to issues of race might pay it little heed.
Dr. Hunter said the Obama speech led to a series of conversations Wednesday morning with his staff members. “We want for there to be healing and reconciliation, but unless it’s raised in a very public manner, it’s tough for us in our regular conversation to raise it,” he said.
The Obama speech was also a topic of discussion on Wednesday at the Washington office of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy and social welfare group. Hispanics can be white, black or of mixed race. “The cynics are going to say this was an effort only to deal with the Reverend Wright issue and move on,” said Janet Murguia, president of La Raza, referring to the political fallout over remarks by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., which prompted Mr. Obama to deliver the speech.
But Ms. Murguia said she hoped that Mr. Obama’s speech would help “create a safe space to talk about this, where people aren’t threatened or pigeonholed” and “can talk more openly and honestly about the tensions, both overt and as an undercurrent, that exist around race and racial politics.”
On the Internet and in many areas of the traditional news media, such a discussion was already taking shape. Some four million people watched Mr. Obama’s speech live, and it is now the top YouTube video.
The speech has stimulated passionate discussion on scores of blogs of varying ideological tendencies, and an article about the speech in The New York Times has provoked more than 2,250 comments.
On the ABC talk show “The View” on Wednesday morning, the co-hosts discussed the substance of Mr. Obama’s speech and its impact on the presidential campaign. “Finally we can talk about” race “without being afraid we are offending” others, one co-host, Barbara Walters, said, while Whoopi Goldberg said she “felt he was talking about stuff that we tiptoe around.”
Some conservative commentators, including Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, found positive elements in the Obama speech, which Mr. O’Reilly called “a mixed deal.” He criticized Mr. Obama for not repudiating Mr. Wright’s views in stronger terms but also said that Mr. Obama “was right that race remains an unresolved problem in America on both sides.”
There have been other efforts to stimulate a national dialogue on race. A commission on race relations was appointed in 1997 by President Bill Clinton with the historian John Hope Franklin as chairman. But that effort produced few concrete advances, and those who said they had been inspired by Mr. Obama’s speech said a different approach was needed.
“This has got to be more than a speech because these things don’t just happen spontaneously,” said Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the Jewish magazine Tikkun and a founder of the Network of Spiritual Progressives.
“There needs to be some systematic, organizational commitment to making this happen, with churches, synagogues and mosques working out a plan for continued dialogue,” Rabbi Lerner said. more more more
Does anybody see a leader here?
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